5

In the first chapter of Walden, Thoreau writes:

I cannot but perceive that this so-called rich and refined life is a thing jumped at, and I do not get on in the enjoyment of the fine arts which adorn it, my attention being wholly occupied with the jump; for I remember that the greatest genuine leap, due to human muscles alone, on record, is that of certain wandering Arabs, who are said to have cleared twenty-five feet on level ground.

Having done some research, I read it:

I cannot but perceive that this so-called rich and refined life is a thing accepted enthusiastically, and I do not relate well to the enjoyment of the fine arts which adorn it, my attention being wholly occupied with the jump;[...]

or

I cannot but perceive that this so-called rich and refined life is a thing jumped at, and I do not have a positive attitude to the enjoyment of the fine arts which adorn it, my attention being wholly occupied with the jump; for I remember that the greatest genuine leap, due to human muscles alone, on record, is that of certain wandering Arabs, who are said to have cleared twenty-five feet on level ground.

I'm not sure if I paraphrased it correctly. What does get on mean in this passage?

2
  • 1
    How did you deduce the meaning of 'relate' from an article that among its many definitions doesn't seem to include that one?
    – Joachim
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 10:12
  • @Joachim I did not. From the many definitions To have a good relationship; to get along. seems to be the closest, though.
    – John Smith
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 10:22

2 Answers 2

9

The 'in' you boldfaced in your quotation is part of the "enjoyment [..]". Paraphrased, it could be "in the enjoyment of the fine arts I do not get on". I'm just pointing this out for thoroughness' sake.

From that same Wiktionary article you linked, the following seem to be more likely candidates for interpretation:

2. To handle, cope or manage (over time); to perform or make progress.
6. To have a good relationship; to get along.

I believe the meaning lies somewhere in-between these definitions. Thoreau expresses his sceptical view of the popularity of "this so-called rich and refined life [and] the fine arts which adorn it". He seems to point out how he cannot "handle", or follow, "get along with", or, simply, understand that "enjoyment of the fine arts".

2

'I do not get on in…' various things might work but '… the enjoyment of the fine arts which adorn it' is too much.

'I do not get on in comprehension/English/writing…' might work.

'I do not get on in the enjoyment of the fine arts which adorn it…' is too great a leap and as such, indicates neither clarity nor precision, but simply confusion or pretension.

2
  • 1
    Isn't he saying the pretension of it is a leap for him? Haha, he made the jump. Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 23:36
  • He might be, but what could 'the pretension of it is a leap for him' actually mean? Can you paraphrase that in several ways? Commented Apr 5, 2023 at 17:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.